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Posted on September 22, 2019, by GAPMP
A Tribute to Shirley Daniels by Patti Solomon
The Legendary Baseball Player Jackie Robinson once said
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
These words truly hit a homerun with an amazing women working just 25 miles away from Robinson’s birthplace. Mitchell County Parent Mentor Shirley Daniels’ lifework is truly important… because everything she does positively impacts the lives of students, educators,
families and her community.
Good Evening I am Patti Solomon. For those of you who don’t know me, I am proud to say I once had a little something to do with the GA Parent Mentor Partnership!
I also was honored to receive the first Visionary Award and am so pleased to see it is once again being awarded and especially happy to see it go to Shirley who became a parent mentor in 2002 and never lost our vision to connect family, schools and the community.
In my 15 years with the GA Department of Education, Shirley Daniels always could be counted on to be a true champion of children, particularly those living in poverty conditions.
In addition, she served as a preeminent leader amongst other parent mentors in Southwest GA and across the state. Her 20/20 vision in the early days of the Partnership provided her with true clarity on how to reach families and tackle difficult issues with a calm, professional manner that was matched with an energetic spirit to never give up.
Early on when we all struggled to figure out how to measure Family Engagement data, Shirley set out to show the difference a Parent Mentor could make in changing the educational outcome for a student with a disability.
Under No Child Left Behind tutoring funding was available for students in Title I schools that were in the needs improvement status for two years. As was the case across the state of Georgia at the time, this opportunity was under used by many families. Shirley set out to find out why.
She and her director , Fran Reynolds, at the time looked at standardized test scores for student with disabilities in the local elementary school and identified those who didn’t pass the test.
Shirley then made appointments with each student’s parent to explain the importance of tutoring to help their child succeed. She went to their homes, the local ball field and to churches to meet these parents.
She soon learned that many families didn’t have transportation to the tutoring centers in Albany so she contacted a tutoring company and convinced them to set up a satellite in a local church. She partnered with the church to not only hold the tutoring sessions but to use the church van to pick up the students.
Eight months later each of the identified students passed the standardized test. That was 20-20 vision on how to create true authentic engagement with stakeholders.
Amazingly, today she keeps reinventing herself by transforming every challenge into solutions by ensuring relevant participation by all stakeholders, coalescing around the issues that matter and doing the work together.
She and her superintendent Robert Adams and Special Education Director Stephanie Gagnon led a C.A.F.E. Stakeholder Team that brought in new community partners, as well as parents, to the table to work on awareness and activities to increase literacy skills across the District. The C.A.F.E.’s work included a refitted bus to bring books and training sessions into the neighborhoods as well a comprehensive campaign to promote reading called “Dream, Believe, Read, and Achieve… Our Students Can Conquer All”.
Besides supporting hundreds of families during her career, Shirley did all this while raising her three children with her lifetime partner Sonny Dawson. Shirley’s daughter, Modesty, serves in the US Army and has done four tours in Afghanistan. Her son, Modzelle, who received special education services for a learning disability from Mitchell County Schools, graduated from Brevard College in December, 2016 and is now a behavior intervention teacher, a high school football coach and varsity track and field coach in Sumter SC. Her daughter, Chrissy, is a paraprofessional for Pelham County Schools.
A life’s work of networking and collaborating in her community has truly transformed her family many other families into school partners working for all students to succeed! Congratulations Shirley, My Friend! Well done!